Capone talks THE CRAZIES and FX's 'Justified' with Timothy Olyphant!!!
Published at: Feb. 22, 2010, 9:32 a.m. CST by Capone
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
Timothy Olyphant has always struck me as a really good guy, in addition to being a solid and reliable actor. In the many interviews I've read with him, he never fails to tell it like it is, not in a defiant way, but in a very sincere and honest one. I remember seeing him for the first time in SCREAM 2, but it was in his turn in GO that he made his first real impression on me and many other moviegoers. After that, he was in a steady stream of film and television roles, and while not all of the projects were great, he always seem to rise above and made a name for himself in such works as GONE IN SIXTY SECONDS, ROCK STAR, DREAMCATCHER, and CATCH AND RELEASE. A lot of people know him as the porn producer villain in THE GIRL NEXT DOOR or as the baddie in LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD or from one of his first leading roles in HITMAN.
But Olyphant sealed his leading-man status playing Sheriff Seth Bullock in the unbelievably awesome HBO series "Deadwood," a show that deserved at least one more season to really satisfy its voracious fan base. But in a weird way, leaving so many things hanging almost made the series better and eternal. Last year, he appeared as the two-faced new love interest for Rose Byrne in "Damages," and his new FX series "Justified" begins in March. He had a good-old time playing a bad boy in last year's A PERFECT GETAWAY, and is about to be seen playing yet another sheriff in the remake of George Romero's 1973 film THE CRAZIES, directed by Breck Eisner. The film is an excellent modernization of Romero's story, only really changing a few of the details in an effort to make the movie feel less dated. All of the paranoia, hatred of the government, and distrust of the military is left intact, and the result in a truly terrifying and suspenseful work.
I spoke briefly to Olyphant about his work in THE CRAZIES and "Justified," and while it wasn't a particularly long chat, we covered a lot of ground and he had much to say about both projects. Enjoy Timothy Olyphant…
Timothy Olyphant: What’s up?
Capone: Hey, how are you?
TO: I’m all right, thanks. How are you doing?
Capone: Good. So, I just saw the movie the other day, and it really took me by surprise how much I liked it and the approach you all took to retelling this story. I’ve got to say I was really impressed with it.
TO: Thanks. I appreciate hearing that. I question why you were so surprised by that, but I appreciate you saying that. [laughs]
Capone: I’ll tell you why. It was actually part of my first question. I love Romero’s original film, but I do consider it one of his lesser works, so the fact that it is being remade actually is okay with me. Normally, I’m not okay with some of the more classic genre films being remade, so I didn’t really know what to expect, to be honest. It remains such a bleak movie, and it combines a lot of different genres, which I think is bold and ambitious and it works. What did you like about this particular story, and when you saw the original, did you think “We can improve upon that”?
TO: The answer to that last question there is no. I don’t tend to come at it that way, and I’m actually different than you, I’m not precious about remakes.
TO: I mean, I’m not a fan of them when they just do them as “Look, just throw that up there. That will work. There’s a story.” At the same time, I look at what they do in the theater and, you know, every four years you can find HAMLET in New York somewhere and everybody takes a different angle at it. And when it’s done well it’s like you are seeing it for the first time with fresh eyes and a different interpretation. Lord knows a ton of musicals and plays are constantly… I’ll go watch GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS over and over again, so I don’t care. I don’t care if somebody wants to retell me that story with a different cast or a different idea. I actually think that the thing that sucks about remakes is that people just don’t say, “Let’s just tell the fucking story and go for it.” Do you know what I mean?
TO: “Let’s not be trashy about it.” What I liked about this was any time you are going to do something like this that you say, “Okay, what is it about the first thing, what is it about the original story that’s worth telling? Everything else, who gives a shit? Tell our story.” I think that what I loved about this thing, this collaboration with Breck [Eisner] was that I felt like from day one, we were going to go for it. We were really going to commit to a story in a meaningful way. There’s just something fun about being involved in a movie that A) you think people are going to want to see and B) You think “We have an opportunity here to sneak some shit in.” It’s not just throw it up there and see if people show up for the first weekend. We had a blast. It was great to really commit to it.
Capone: I think it works as horror, as a mystery, as science fiction, and I’ll even throw in Western, since everyone in the movie seems to have a gun.
TO: How great are those shots of the sheriff walking down the middle of Main Street with the town deserted and he’s walking down… I mean, it looked like it was right out of a movie from the '40s, right?
Capone: Yeah, sure. I just thought it really combined those elements so well, and the way that Breck built the pressure and the suspense is mind blowing. Did you have a say in shaping the character that you play? What did you add to him?
TO: I say without hesitation “Yes,” but at the same time I want to say “Often times, I can be totally fucking delusional.” I thought, if my memory serves, I was very involved and very invested, and it was a real collaboration with Breck in terms of shaping this thing. He and I really locked ourselves in a room in Georgia for about 48 hours or 72 hours, and that’s after months of speaking and emails back and forth. We had an ongoing dialogue about this for a long time, and then we had a real tug of war right all the way up until the first day of shooting with really fleshing this thing out the whole way, scene by scene by scene. He was just wonderful in terms of allowing me to put my two cents in there. I turned 40 a year or two ago, and I just said "Fuck it." I kind of know going into these things at this point what I’m hoping to achieve here, and it’s really fun for me to go to work now and not just show up and ask, “What are my lines?” or “Where are my marks?” It was a lot of fun. It was really great making that thing and taking the character and working on that together with him.
Capone: It’s actually kind of rare that you get to play a flat-out good guy/hero type. Even when you play nicer guys, there’s always some added dimension that makes us maybe fearful of then. And along those same lines, you almost never play weak characters. You might play characters that have some weaknesses, but in terms of their overall demeanor, they are pretty strong guys. Is that intentional, or just the way that casting directors are looking at you?
TO: Well with the first part of what you said, if somebody told me “You are just going to play a good guy,” my first question is “Why? Where’s the fun in that?" It might be a fault; I just find my favorite performances growing up and my favorite thing is looking at the unpredictability of characters. “I know it’s the hero, but why am I having a hard time trusting him?” or “I know he’s a bad guy, but why do I like him so much?” I think that’s kind of where all of the fun is, you know?
At the same time, if it’s a really intense scene I ask myself , “How funny can it be at the same time?” and vice versa. It’s just what I’m always looking for, and I think I’ve been really lucky the last three or four jobs in a row here of being able to really go to work and really exercise that and only commit to those kinds of things and the characters I’ve been allowed to play like with this job, with PERFECT GETAWAY, with "Justified," a little film I did that went to Berlin, HIGH LIFE, and so I really had an opportunity to say “Okay, this is really allowing me some room to have fun with my job.” I've been really fortunate.
Capone: Yeah, I wanted to ask you about "Justified," because FX is certainly playing commercials for that pretty much nonstop at this point. I know the Elmore Leonard source material; can you tell me about the character that you are playing in that?
TO: Raylen Givins is a character that’s in two novels and one short story, on which the pilot is based. Elmore wrote just the greatest books and the greatest stories. I’ve really just had a ball. I’m really quite proud of the character and the work we’ve done on it.
Capone: I can’t wait to see it. You seem to give equal weight to TV and movie roles; you don’t think one is lesser or one is better. I saw you on "Damages," and obviously "Deadwood" is just one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen on TV, but you seem to weigh them both equally.
TO: I appreciate that. Well at this point in my career, arguably some of the best roles I’ve got my hands on are in television. Lord knows there’s plenty of crap on television if that’s what you are looking for. We’re not short changing the American viewing audience in that respect, but the stuff that’s really good on TV is the kind of work that… We just don’t make those kinds of movies anymore. I’m not moaning and pissing and whining, because I get to make great movies, but quite honestly, it’s just hard for me to get my hands on that kind of thing. This character in "Justified," when you see the pilot, if that were a film--I hate to say it--but I’m at the bottom of a long list to get my hands on that kind of a character, so it’s just an opportunity to take that kind of character and really look at it in such a deep meaningful way. That’s kind of the fun of that medium right now; that you can just follow these characters and let them sort of lead you.
The downside is it’s easy to complain that you never know what your next job is, but the fact is that’s part of the fun of the job. It never gets any better than when somebody says “You got the job” and that comes with not knowing what’s next. So the downside to TV and the payoff is that if it's a success, you could be doing it for a long time, and you want to make sure you don’t lose that enthusiasm and that thrill and that willingness to go for it season after season and not overstay your welcome, but I’ve been really lucky.
Like I said, the last four jobs have just been a joy. THE CRAZIES was right up there. It was just so fun to make this picture and be involved creatively with so many aspects of it. I’m just as proud of the character and the performance as I am of like…you know that scene of me sticking that knife through that chick’s neck? Those things that you see there were real collaborations between Breck and I, and I had just as much fun working on that stuff, because it’s such great drama and such great storytelling. It was just a kick to make.
Capone: Okay. One other film that I’ve been meaning to ask you about, in a couple of weeks I’m going down to SXSW, and I noticed you are in ELEKTRA LUXX, which is playing down there and I got to spend a lot of time with Sebastian [Gutierrez] and Carla [Gugino] last year when they brought WOMEN IN TROUBLE, so I’m genuinely looking forward to that movie. You weren’t in the first one, so who do you play in this one?
TO: Yeah, yeah. No, I’m in the sequel that they made before the first one came out, which I don’t know if it’s the smartest or stupidest thing that’s ever been done in town [laughs], but you know what I got a call from those guys. We had never met and had folks in common, and they asked if I would come in and shoot a couple of scenes. Really, I think I worked over a weekend and they gave me a free pair of shoes with it. But I mean if someone says, “Hey, what are you doing this weekend? You want to do a couple of scenes with Carla Gugino?” My typical answer is “Yes, I do want to do that and I am free.” I haven’t seen it, but they are just lovely people and really great. It was a wonderful cast and quite fun to make.
Capone: I loved the first one and I’m really looking forward to this one. Timothy thank you so much for talking to me.
TO: My pleasure. I’m glad you liked the movie. Tell your friends.
Capone: I truly did and I will. Thanks a lot.
TO: Take care.
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